May 15, 2004

Softball Falls 5-0 To Creighton In MVC Tournament Championship Game

by Lou Antoine

CARBONDALE, Ill. - A majority of the West Stadium-record crowd of 598 fans left stunned after top seed and host Southern Illinois (42-15) committed an uncharacteristic four errors, leading to a 5-0 loss to Creighton in the 2004 MVC Tournament Championship game on Saturday. The 2004 MVC Tournament was the first-ever held at West Stadium, and continues a Valley streak, during which no host has ever won a tournament title.


"It's probably the worst game we've played since we played Marshall (5-0 loss, 8 errors) in the season-opener. I hate that this happened on tv and in a championship game at home. These games happen every once in a while, you just hope they don't happen at a bad time. I was more disappointed with the lack of intensity on offense by some people. We had half the team attacking and half not coming through, which was the difference," said a dejected Kerri Blaylock, SIU head coach.


SIU fell behind 2-0 in the first inning on two unearned runs due to throwing errors by pitcher Amy Harre, and couldn't recover against Creighton starter Tammy Nielsen (25-11), who struck out ten in a five-hit shutout of the Salukis. Nielsen was named the 2004 MVC Tournament MVP.


"It's hard to get two-out hits against her, much less score two runs. We had some chances, but a good pitcher always steps up and shuts the door. She has a 0.70 ERA, so you know things are hard to come by. If we get out of that inning, who knows what happens," added Blaylock.


Creighton took the lead in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs, SIU's Amy Harre struck out Christine Fukumoto, but she reached on a passed ball to keep the inning alive. Caitlin Marcano grounded to Harre, who threw the ball away, allowing Fukumoto to reach third base and Marcano to go to second on the play. Unbelievably, the next batter, Abby Johnson, hit a dribbler in front of the plate that Harre threw into rightfield, for her second straight error. Fukumoto and Marcano both scored on the play to give the Bluejays a 2-0 lead. 


The Salukis threatened Nielsen three times in the game. In the top of the second inning, a walk by Haley Viefhaus, a sacrifice byAmanda Clifton and a hit by Lauren Roney left runners on first and third base with one out, but CU's Nielsen forced Maria Damico andAdie Viefhaus to pop out to end the inning.

In the fourth, SIU left runners on first and second after a Roney single and Damico walk after Nielsen forced Adie Viefhaus to pop out again. The next inning, SIU had runners on first and second after a Jenny Doehring walk and a pinch-hit single by Kelly Creek, but Nielsen struck out Katie Louis and Haley Viefhaus to end the threat.

Creighton added three runs on five singles and a sacrifice fly against Harre in the bottom of the sixth inning the put the game out of reach and give the Bluejays the final 5-0 margin.

SIU's Jenny Doehring doubled with two outs in the seventh inning, but Nielsen struck out Samantha Carter looking to end the game.

Harre (19-6) struck out ten without a walk in the loss. She allowed five hits, three earned runs and five total runs in the loss, which was her eighth straight complete game. Harre, Damico and Lindsey Bonnell were named to the 2004 MVC All-Tournament Team.

The Salukis must now wait until Sunday's NCAA Softball Selection Show (7-8 p.m. CST on ESPN News), hoping to make history with their second straight NCAA at-large bid. SIU earned the school and MVC's first at-large bid last year, making a run to the Region VIII final, before losing to Alabama 2-0 in the championship game.

"I'm nervous because I don't know what's going to happen this year. There have been a lot of upsets in other tournaments. I hope the Valley is worthy of two teams," stated Blaylock.